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Knesset Endorses Bill Defining Israel as “Nation for Jews”

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The Israeli parliament’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation this week approved the long-delayed “Nation State Bill” for its first reading, which, when passed, will further restrict immigration to Jews only, and enshrine Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.”

The bill will now go to the Knesset plenum for a preliminary vote, following which it will be combined with a Justice Ministry version of the bill. The ministry has 60 days to draft its own version of the bill.

The so-called Nationality Law will create a Basic Law, similar to a Constitutional law, stating that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. Under such a Basic Law, Israeli law must be interpreted according to this principle.

The bill also would make Hebrew the country’s official language, with Arabic being given “special status.”

It also addresses such issues as national symbols including the flag and the national anthem, as well as the right of return for Jews, holy sites and the Hebrew calendar. It also calls for the government to work to strengthen ties between Israel-Diaspora Jewry.

Amir Ohana, the committee’s chair, called it the “law of all laws”, while a government minister termed it “Zionism’s flagship bill”.

The Basic Law also paves the way for the Israeli government to consolidate and expand the annexation of Palestinian lands under occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and stymie any legal moves intended to prevent such efforts.

The final version approved this week demotes the status of Arabic, the language of all “Israeli Arabs,” so that it is no longer an official language alongside Hebrew.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, said of the bill that “It will bring order, clarify what is taken for granted and put Israel back on the right path. A country that is different from all others in one way—that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Arabic is already almost invisible in most public spaces in Israel. Some 93 percent of Israel’s land is already reserved exclusively for the Jewish people around the world, not Israel’s citizens. The Law of Return already allows only Jews to immigrate.

At the same time, Israel is drafting legislation that would strip tens of thousands of Palestinians of their residency rights in occupied East Jerusalem, while annexing parts of the West Bank to Jerusalem to skew the city’s demography towards a solid Jewish majority.

The Knesset last week a law empowering the government to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem.

The new Basic Law includes all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and gives the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination in the region.


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